Bath County’s reputation as a destination for food lovers is on the rise. While the county’s list of restaurants may not be as extensive as a big city, the caliber of the dining experience will knock the socks off even the most sophisticated diners. Several fine dining establishments in Bath County have a loyal following and are considered destination restaurants. Visitors return time and again to see what their favorite chef has added to the menu.
One of the chefs who has been dazzling locals and visitors is Kyle Krieger, executive chef and co-owner of Les Cochons D’Or in Hot Springs. A combination of talent, passion and experience have shaped Chef Krieger and his cuisine. He has cooked at The Greenbrier in West Virginia, the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan, the Ritz-Carlton’s flagship Grill Room in Naples, Florida and more.
Our Q & A with Chef Krieger offers a glimpse at his passion for great food, the story behind the opening of Les Cochons D’Or and his fondness for Bath County.
Q. Did you know at a young age that you wanted to be a chef?
No. I wanted to be an architect or pilot. To be honest, I didn’t even know that cooking was a profession. After high school, I went to college, and started working at a local restaurant because it paid more than minimum wage at the time (I think it was like $4/hr.), but I met a chef that had been working in Napa and I couldn’t believe the stuff he could do with food. College didn’t interest me after that, and the rest is history.
Q. What inspired you to open Les Cochons D’Or in Hot Springs?
Honestly, the area was perfect. I was about to move back to D.C. and be the corporate chef of a restaurant group. John Loeffler called while I was driving during the interview and said he knew of a spot that might work for a restaurant. After doing some rough numbers and meeting with Maggie Anderson who had a vision for the direction tourism was heading, we had a great meeting with our investors, and Pat Haynes and it’s been quite the ride since, a good ride at that. That was in 2014 and I’m not sure where the time has gone.
Q. How would you describe the cuisine at Les Cochons D’Or?
French inspired American. We use the freshest ingredients we can find, be that locally or worldwide. During the summer, we can have fresh farm eggs from down the street paired with fresh summer truffles from Umbria, Italy. We play with classic combinations and try to do them justice with the products we can get here in the mountains. We cook with the seasons. I look at the plates as they come back from the tables. If they aren’t empty, I want to know why. The plates don’t lie.
Q. Does Les Cochons D’Or have a signature dish? If not, is there a menu item that you’re especially fond of and would encourage guests to try?
Probably the duck or the French onion soup. They’ve been on the menu in some iteration since the beginning. The pork shoulder is probably my favorite right now. The flavors are complex without being over the top. If I was going to have someone try something, it probably would be the PEI Mussels, they have a touch of togarashi in them and it makes all the difference.
Q. Are you able to incorporate locally grown products into your dishes?
We do what we can and use what we can find. I look for quality first, like the chicken and eggs from Fireside at Oakley Farm. It’s local, but more importantly it’s really good. I’d put their chicken up against pretty much any of them. Cestari lamb has a great product that we use from time to time. I always look forward to this time of year because the ramps have come up and next are morels. There is this natural timeline of what is around and it seems to all start with the ramps. We use flours from Wade’s mill for our in-house breads, and it works great with the sourdough starter that’s been in my family for more than four generations.
Q. Your restaurant has an extensive selection of wines. How important is wine, cocktails or beer to a fantastic dining experience?
It’s integral, without one there isn’t the other. Crystal’s passion for wine is the same as mine is for food. I was lucky enough to learn some things about wine while she studied throughout the years… mainly by osmosis. Crystal is the driver behind the beverage and service program here. I don’t think people realize how important it is that you drink with what you eat or eat with what you drink. These aren’t separate things, food and beverage, but just two halves that make a whole. Crystal takes time to make sure that the two jive, regardless of what weird things the kitchen comes up with.
Q. Are you constantly creating new recipes and menu ideas? If so, what new items might guests soon find on the menu?
Always. We travel, mostly because we like too. It keeps your eyes wide open, you’ll never know what you’ll see, taste, smell, or hear. We’ve been playing with a lot of Asian flavors lately. We were out of the country a few years ago and had turbot with dashi. Not a classic pairing, but ethereal none the less. There are Arabic flavor combinations that have been around for thousands of years that are really intriguing, and we use some of those hidden in dishes here and there.
Q. When you’re not in the kitchen creating culinary masterpieces, what are some of your favorite things to do in Bath County?
Spending time outside, I don’t see enough of the sun, so I’m usually finding something outside to do. Messing with the herb garden, mowing the yard, grabbing a cold beer at Bacova Beer Company or getting a good meal from Snead’s 1912 Steak or the Waterwheel. This is one of the most picturesque places in the country and its not lost on us.